LONG ISLAND (PIX11) There has been no small amount of confusion around the issue of masks in schools this week out on Long Island and in other parts of the state.
Wednesday, there were large protests as parents and school districts reckon with what to do next.
“There is no legal nor constitutional basis for the mask mandate, but until there is a final ruling by the courts I believe we have to follow the rule of the law,” said new Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman. He has been outspoken against masking, but says for now students should keep masks on.
Meanwhile, several hundred parents pulled their children out of class to protest the reinstated statewide mask mandate in front of the Suffolk County Executive offices.
Among them was kindergartener Sophie and her 2nd grade brother. Their mother Tiara Salkind who says she is not sure she will send her children back to the Longwood Central School District if they have to wear masks again.
“They’re being told they have to wear masks, then they don’t have to wear masks,” she said. “Both my children were so excited when they found out no more masks, it was like Christmas morning, for them like: ‘Yay!’”
As the courts weigh what comes next, a former deputy commissioner at the New York City Health Department said he was unsurprised there was this confusing back-and-forth about a whether the mask mandate was legal.
“There is a 1987 ruling that limits the ability of public health bodies to make rules, and that’s to distinguish the rules from something that a City Council or a Legislature would pass,” said Dr. Jay Varma, an epidemiologist.
He said in New York, courts often disagree about how this applies to health guidance. As an example, a few years back there was back-and-forth before the State Supreme Court did uphold New York City’s flu vaccine mandate for day cares.
Varma says the bottom line is New York’s legislature should act.
“They really do need good strong guidance so different judges using different interpretations of the law can’t continue to invalidate valid health measures,” Varma said.
So far, legislative leadership in Albany has indicated they want to see how this legal process plays out before they take any action.